The PGA Tour heads to the U.S. mainland as 156 players are set to take on the PGA West Rota in La Quinta, California. In what will be the first pro-am of the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, players will face somewhat easier conditions given their celebrity playing partners. They’ll play La Quinta Country Club, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course, three similar courses in the desert of California.
This tournament is different not only due to the three-course rotation and the inclusion of amateur golfers, but also because it boasts a 54-hole cut. All players will see each course at least once and if inside the top 65 on the leaderboard by the end of Saturday’s play, they will take to the Stadium Course once again for the final round.
World No. 1 Jon Rahm will likely be in the conversation on Sunday and rightfully so given his runner-up effort at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Displaying no rust after taking substantial time off, the Spaniard could be in store for a massive 2022 and PGA West could be the perfect launching point given his victory here in 2018.
Rahm is leading the way at Bovada at +650, with our odds calculator giving the 2018 American Express champion a 13.33 percent chance to claim yet another title in California. Last winning on the West Coast this past summer, Rahm captured his lone major championship, the U.S. Open, at Torrey Pines over the likes of Louis Oosthuizen and Harris English.
What Happened In Last Year’s American Express?
Last year’s American Express was vastly different than any other edition of this tournament. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pro-am was cancelled, leaving the professionals to play by themselves and only on the PGA West rotation as La Quinta CC was unable to host players. With an extra day of play on the Stadium Course and a 36-hole cut, Si Woo Kim was the man to take full advantage of the conditions.
Finishing at 23 under, Kim was able to outlast a streaking Patrick Cantlay as the American made the cut on the number before putting together a weekend to remember. Punctuated by a record-setting final round of 11-under 61, Cantlay made birdie on the 72nd hole to put all the pressure on the South Korean.
Converting a birdie from distance on the par-3 17th, Kim only needed a par on his final hole to collect his third victory on the PGA Tour. That he did as he added to his resume, outdoing the likes of Cantlay, Abraham Ancer, Tony Finau and Cameron Davis. It should be noted Kim tends to play Pete Dye courses quite well – his three victories have come on such courses – and the extra day of play on the Stadium Course was very much to his benefit.
Who Is Favored To Win The American Express?
|Si Woo Kim||+5000|
Odds as of January 18 at Bovada
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Course And Analysis
With three courses in the itinerary this week, we are lucky in the fact that all three are rather similar based on the scorecard alone. All measure just about 7,100 yards and play to a par 72, meaning par-5 scoring will be of the utmost importance for the American Express.
La Quinta Country Club used to be the most difficult of the trio, but in recent years it has taken reins as the easiest. Transformed from a par 70 to a par 72, the four par 5s present the easiest scoring opportunities on the property as players average scores of 2 under on this quartet of holes.
The same can be said for the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course over at PGA West. As is typical with Pete Dye designs, the Stadium Course tends to be the most difficult due to numerous water hazards, difficult bunkering and smaller-than-average greens.
If players are able to take care of business on La Quinta CC and the Nicklaus Tournament Course, they should have a leg up on the competition as they won’t feel the need to fire at pins on the most difficult course.
We have discussed par-5 scoring a ton thus far and it is certainly important. Combine this with strong ball-striking figures and the potential to catch a hot putter and that will be the basis of our analysis for the 2022 American Express.
2022 American Express Expert Selections
Rickie Fowler (+5000)
The new year is a big one for Rickie Fowler as it presents a major opportunity for him to get back into the winner’s circle and return to prominence. A new father, Fowler will be making his 2022 debut this week at the American Express and history suggests it could be a fruitful one. Showing flashes of brilliance in 2021, namely his top-10 at the PGA Championship and T-11 at the Memorial, the former Oklahoma State standout found another gear in one start during the swing season.
Possessing the 54-hole lead at the CJ Cup @ Summit, Fowler surrendered the trophy to Rory McIlroy as the two played together in the final group on Sunday. However, there was plenty of good that Fowler could take from this outing, finishing first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and SG: Off-the-Tee in an elite field.
Fowler, known to play some of his best golf in the desert, has a tremendous record at TPC Scottsdale, posting two runner-up finishes and his most recent victory on the PGA Tour. If he is able to perform on his long-term baseline when it comes to par-5 scoring, the rest of his game should be up to the test. Improving in recent appearances in La Quinta with finishes of T-10 and T-22, Fowler could be primed to start his year with a bang.
Jhonattan Vegas (+8000)
A player who impressed throughout the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, Jhonattan Vegas captured three runner-up results. After finishing second at the Puerto Rico Open, the Palmetto Championship and the 3M Open, the Venezuelan carried this strong play into the swing season this past fall.
Finishing in a tie for 26th at the HPE Houston Open, Vegas was well-positioned for another title run as he entered the final round at Memorial Park only two strokes off the lead. He continued to strike the ball well off the tee at the RSM Classic as he finished in a tie for 12th at Sea Island to wrap up his 2021.
Playing for the first time in 2022, there is always the possibility of rust, but at this number, it is well worth the risk. Winning in his debut appearance here in 2011, he has found a nice comfort level on these greens in the past and if able to once again, he should be in contention come Sunday.
K.H. Lee (+10000)
While not necessarily a Tournament Players Club (TPC) golf course, the PGA West rotation and La Quinta CC possess plenty of similarities. Not only is there TPC River Highlands and TPC Sawgrass, which were designed by Pete Dye as well, but also TPC Craig Ranch, TPC Summerlin and TPC Scottsdale. These are some of the venues K.H. Lee has played the best through his career and the current trend of his game suggests a strong outing could be in store this week.
After posting positive SG: Approach and SG: Off-the-Tee figures last week at the Sony Open, Lee is set to play in his third tournament of 2022. A winner at TPC Craig Ranch and a runner-up at TPC Scottsdale, he has finishes of T-21 and T-32 at the American Express and could surely improve on that this week.
Russell Knox (+10000)
With the long list of sleepers to have come through at the American Express, we will be peppering the lower range of the oddsboard. Knox is a player who performed swimmingly last week at the Sony Open, finishing in a tie for seventh on the back of his ball-striking.
First in greens in regulation, seventh in driving accuracy, eighth in SG: Tee-to-Green, and 10th in SG: Approach, Knox is just a capable putting week away from returning to the winner’s circle. Having shown a strong liking for desert golf with nice results at TPC Scottsdale and TPC Summerlin, he could add to that list at the American Express.
Taylor Moore (+10000)
Taylor Moore is a player I am very interested in this year as I believe he can win on the PGA Tour as a rookie. Taking the long road to the PGA Tour from the Korn Ferry Tour after running into some health issues, Moore is a seasoned 28-year-old ready to break out.
Posting a top-10 at the RSM Classic after strong showings at the Sanderson Farms Championship and TPC Summerlin, Moore is getting more and more comfortable on the big stage as the weeks go by. An all-around great player, he has more than a fighter’s chance if the irons decide to spike for a week.
Hudson Swafford (+20000)
Adding one last dart to our American Express outright card, the 2017 American Express champion has been striking the ball extremely well for the last few months. But the former Georgia Bulldog, a great driver of the golf ball and steady on approach, has run into troubles around the green.
Playing one of the easiest venues on the tour to chip could play right into Swafford’s hands. He will need to avoid the bunkering, but if he’s able to, he is just a nice putting week away from a return to the winner’s circle. A proven winner, and a streaky player, this could be a place to target Swafford.
Golf is unique for many reasons, but one of them is the significant number of betting props available at weekly tournaments. The American Express is no different.
Sportsbooks are offering odds on things like whether there will be a hole-in-one, OVER/UNDERs on the winning score for the eventual champion and odds on which players from specific countries will have the lowest score, to name a few.
Like other sports, betting on props is a fun and unique way to enhance your golf gambling experience.
Live Betting is arguably one of the most exciting ways to bet on golf. If the player you placed a pre-tournament bet on is out of the running at any point during the American Express, you can bet on another golfer as the days go by and have another stake in the game.
If there are only a few men in the hunt on the final day, the odds likely won’t be significantly high, but your chances of winning are. We’ve seen this happen multiple times in the PGA Tour’s Return to Golf, as multiple tournaments have gone to a playoff.
These helpful pages will assist you in handicapping your golf wagers:
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